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14th World Elder Abuse Conference explores building trust and valuing our elderly

South Australian Aged Rights Advocacy Service (ARAS) is hosting their 14th World Elder Abuse Awareness Day Conference (WEAAD) with a range of experienced speakers presenting the latest information, news and developments in the area of elder abuse.

Dr Duncan McKellar had a big part to play in the review and closure of Oakden Aged Care Home. He is a keynote speaker at this year's World Elder Abuse Awareness Day Conference. [Source: Supplied]
Dr Duncan McKellar had a big part to play in the review and closure of Oakden Aged Care Home. He is a keynote speaker at this year's World Elder Abuse Awareness Day Conference. [Source: Supplied]

The conference ‘Elder Abuse: Building Trust’ runs on the 17 June at the Stamford Grand Adelaide in Glenelg, and will be opened by South Australian Minister for Health and Wellbeing, Minister Stephen Wade, featuring many important voices who are exploring the evolving area of elder abuse.

The conference aims to prevent or help end elder abuse and rebuild trust in local communities.

The keynote speakers include Age Discrimination Commissioner, Dr Kay Patterson; Head of Unit for Older Persons and Mental Health Services, Northern Adelaide Local Health Network, Dr Duncan McKellar and many more.

Also highlighted throughout the conference are significant developments in the elder abuse area, like the new Adult Safeguarding Unit, and the actions that can be taken by community members.

ARAS Chief Executive Carolanne Barkla says, “Our vision is a community in which all older people are valued and respected.

“The conference theme ‘building trust’ includes our values of integrity, inclusiveness, justice and respect.

“In the current rapidly evolving area of elder abuse, the conference brings together key stakeholders to focus on the latest information, actions and how you can be an active participant within your community.”

Keynote Speaker, Dr Duncan McKellar, Head of Unit for Older Persons' Mental Health Services Northern Adelaide Local Health Network, will be giving a presentation called “Beyond Oakden: Building Trust Through Failure, Recovery and Reform”.

A specialist psychiatrist in care for the elderly, Mr Duncan was a member of the Oakden Review panel in 2017 and lead the implementation of recommendations from the report into Oakden Aged Care Home in Adelaide.

He had a main role in the Oakden Response Oversight Committee and helped develop new models of care, staffing profiles and reduction for restrictive practices. He also co-authored the South Australian Older Persons’ Mental Health Culture Framework.

Helping close the Oakden Campus, Dr McKellar developed Northgate House, on top of the original Oakden site, and created new ways to work with people with dementia in South Australian public health services and facilities.

Dr McKellar is looking forward to the elder abuse conference and wants his presentation to continue the conversation around improving aged care in Australia.

Dr McKellar says, “I am very honoured to be asked. From my perspective, it is a really important conference. It just brings together a lot of people and a lot of ideas that really sit at the heart of how we move forward around aged care and supporting people as they get older.”

He says the Oakden scandal was a landmark event that triggered the Royal Commission into Aged Care, but not the only problem in Australian aged care that contributed to the investigation.

Dr McKellar describes the Oakden issues a “life-changing event” that was very traumatising for himself, however, his main focus for his presentation will be on the positive changes that are occurring and still need to happen to create the best aged care system possible.

“We hopefully are on a journey of change and reform... For me it is more a story about positive change rather than a story about reliving what went wrong,” says Dr McKellar.

“It is much more about what is it that we need to do to make sure we have sustainable, high quality, respectful services that honour the lives of older people, particularly those with challenging personal or care needs that result from things that happen in life, like dementia.

“We are working in a situation where there has been a loss of trust from the community around the way that we care for older people… Trustworthiness is the key issue. If we want people to trust what we provide, we need to make sure we actually deliver on purpose. 

“We need to build systems that have integrity where people are driven by values not just by profits or service flow or KPIs, that it is human values that drive us. Then we need to sustain that and deliver that consistently with accountability over time."

Dr McKellar highlights a recent conversation with a younger onset dementia advocate who went through the journey with her partner.

She was a massive advocate for younger onset dementia, but had to take several years off from advocacy because it wore her down.

He says when she returned to do more advocacy work, she noticed nothing much has changed in aged care since she took a break and no progress had been made.

“My commitment from my role here, is to keep this agenda very clear. To not drop the ball and to actually follow through,” says Dr McKellar.

“It is great to see reform across the aged care sector, to see better services for particularly vulnerable older people, but it needs to be much more than an idea, we need to follow through and deliver change.

“It is a really frustrating thing, particularly working in public health services. You can work so hard to actually achieve the change… but then [ask] what came out of that? I would like to see us working in an era where we see more rapid change and we actually deliver.”

Dr McKellar wants dramatic reform for aged care since it will affect every Australian at one point in their lives, whether its parents moving into aged care or yourself needing to access aged care.

He hopes that the future of aged care will include robust, person-centred and respectful services that cater to who people are and provide agency and autonomy to people accessing aged care services.

If you are interested in attending the World Elder Abuse Awareness Day Conference, you can book tickets here, or to view the program for the event, head to the ARAS website.

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